Legal move may follow after land ‘sterilized’

by Aisling Kennedy

A DEVELOPMENT company which claims its land has been left “sterilized” after councillors voted against traffic management proposals is now considering a judicial review that could cost rate payers thousands of euro.
The traffic management scheme for the Brennanstown Road between Carrickmines and Cabinteely was voted down at the recent Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council meeting following a record 560 submissions against the proposals by local residents.
The rejection, which came despite the county manager’s recommendation that the scheme be approved, will now prevent Marlet Property Group from beginning construction work on a residential development in the area – even though the land has been zoned for residential use since 1986.
Prior to the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council meeting on March 13, Marlet sent a letter to all councillors urging them to approve the proposed traffic management scheme on the Brennanstown Road.
The letter, dated February 13 read: “We respectfully urge you to assent to the traffic management scheme in the interests of proper planning and sustainable development to provide much needed housing for those that need it. Any alternative to this will leave our otherwise serviced lands, sterilized for the foreseeable future.”
Then, three days before the council meeting, Marlet sent councillors an email containing a three-page document from their legal team outlining the reasons why the road scheme should be adopted. The email begins by stating that the outlined reasons contained in the attached document were on “advice we have received from Arthur Cox our solicitors”.
It continues: “If the Brennanstown Road Part 8 is not adopted on Monday at your council meeting, residentially zoned lands along Brennanstown Road will be effectively sterilized for an unknown length of time. If we find ourselves in this position, we will be placed in the unfortunate position of having to seek a judicial review.”
In the attached three-page document, dated March 10, Marlet’s solicitors said: “The only impediment to obtaining this planning permission is the continued failure of the local authority to make a traffic management plan.”
The final point of the document states that “it would be very difficult in these circumstances for councillors aware of this failure and acting contrary to the recommendation of the county manager to justify the failure to provide a traffic management plan on a judicial review. The costs in judicial reviews of the kind involved in this case are awarded against the losing parties.”
At the March 13 council meeting, Frank Austin, the council’s Director of Infrastructure and Climate Change, spoke to the floor of councillors in advance of the vote on the new road scheme and said that “this scheme satisfies the terms of the current development plan”.
He said that it “reduces traffic speed, it improves road safety, it improves facilities for vulnerable road users, it reduces through traffic, it facilitates zoned lands and it preserves the existing nature of Brennanstown Road”.
He also added that in terms of costs this road scheme is feasible but if a full road-widening scheme were to go ahead it would “cost up to €17m and take quite a number of years”.
Subsequently, councillors voted 7 to 30 to reject the proposed traffic management scheme as they believed the new plans did not tackle safety and infrastructure problems along the road adequately.
Cllr Barry Saul (FG) told The Gazette he voted against the scheme because it did not address the many concerns of local residents in relation to public safety or to easing the traffic burden.
He said: “The plan quite simply was an attempt to open up the area for house building. I believe it’s now back to the drawing board in relation to the Brennanstown Road.”
Cllr Deidre Donnelly (Ind) also opposed the proposed plans and said she wasn’t happy with the rationale behind this particular traffic scheme.
“At present there is traffic congestion on the road and it is unsafe. I don’t believe that these proposed improvements would have remedied the situation,” she said.
Cllr Liam Dockery (FF) echoed his colleagues’ sentiments and voted against the proposed plans, saying: “We need a proper solution, namely a traffic management scheme that enjoys the support of those living on and near the Brennanstown Road. And one that will cater properly for any future development along the road.”
Cllr Lynsey McGovern (Ind) also voted against the proposed plans as she didn’t feel proper consideration had been given to the 560 submissions by local residents. She added: “That’s quite an astonishing amount of submissions.”
Cllr Carron McKinney (Lab) also opposed the plans and said: “Whilst I am in favour of new developments and acutely aware of the housing need in our county, I am also aware of the legacy of bad planning that we have across the county.
“To build over 700 plus units knowing that the infrastructure is not in place to support the residents of those units is shortsighted and frankly irresponsible. We cannot allow the pressure on housing or the threat of legal action by developers to pressurise the council into building housing units with no supportive infrastructure.
“We need sustainable planning with accessible infrastructure including a road and public path network capable of supporting new development. This plan failed to achieve that.”
Cllr Ossian Smyth (GP) told The Gazette that he voted against the traffic management scheme and said: “It didn’t give a safe route for pedestrians or cyclists. All that was planned was a single footpath on just one side of the road to be shared between people on foot and people on bikes. There should be a safe route designed for people of all ages to walk or cycle to the Luas and to Cabinteely village.”
In contrast, Cllr Denis O’Callaghan (Lab) voted in favour of the proposed road scheme going ahead but said he was not surprised that it was voted down. He added: “It appears to me that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors (especially) had an agreement to vote against the scheme.
“Councillors from SF and AAA/PBP simply did not have the bottle to vote for it.
“I believe the scheme which was voted down was probably the best one to help make life easier for the residents living along and off Brennanstown Road. Any alternative in my opinion will have a much greater impact on the environs of Brennanstown Road and its residents.”
The Gazette also approached Marlet Property Group for comment, but they had not replied by the time of going to press.

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